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Amphitheatre Imperium: Dacen Prime

Stardate: 53323.0

Tigranian was in hell.

Deep underneath the ground in the burning heat of arena's dim catacombs, he was surrounded by dozens of alien gladiators speaking in as many varied languages. All were preparing to meet their fate on the bloody sands above them. A long stone ramp in front of him led to what they called, "The Gate of the Damned." It was the entrance to the battle ground.

Two muscular aliens were dragging the mangled corpses of the arena's most recent occupants down the ramp towards a pit in the far corner of the catacombs, leaving a trail of gore and blood behind them. The deep hole was already filled with assorted body parts from all the slave races of the Romulan Star Empire and beyond: men and women slaughtered for the enjoyment of the crowd sitting in the stands above.

Tigranian had been given a pair of leather breeches to replace his loincloth and a segmented metal sleeve that fit over his right arm. Otherwise, he was still without clothing or armor.

"Human!" a Romulan guard shouted to him from the end of the ramp. "Prepare yourself, your match is next."

Tigranian walked over to a wooden table littered with various melee weapons and armor. He examined the assorted collection.

"No Klingon weapons, not even anything close to a Klingon weapon…" he thought to himself.

It really didn't matter. He had no intention of fighting for the enjoyment of those who believed themselves to be his master. His hand finally stopped over a small, short sword. He lifted it and gave it a few practice swings. It was simple, solid, and reliable. It would serve its purpose.

Tigranian walked to the base of the ramp, closed his eyes, and began to move in a calming, rhythmic motion. He extended his right leg behind him, raised his arms over his head, and slowly lowered them to his sides. He then shifted his weight to his left leg and repeated the motion. Next, he crouched back, crossed his arms in front of him, and then pushed them away while breathing deeply.

"What is that?" another one of Seranius' gladiators who had completed his match half an hour before asked loudly. "Do you dance to ask your gods for mercy? If so, do not bother, no righteous god can hear your pleas in the darkness of the Romulan Empire."

Tigranian slowly opened his eyes while continuing his movements.

"My people killed their gods," he replied calmly. "We had no need for them. No, this is the Mok'bara. It clears the mind and centers the body."

"Call it whatever you like, human. You will die or you will live. Either way, your life is over," he said with utter dejection in his eyes.

In the stands above, Selonia sat in the arena's pulvinus, a luxury box where the most senior dignitaries viewed the games. She lounged on a luxurious couch trimmed in blue and gold. Next to her, Vrixia, Seranius' wife, sat on a similar couch. Several slaves attended to their needs while Seranius himself sat between them on a wooden throne overlooking the stadium. In front of their balcony, a huge banner emblazoned with the Imperial Raptor fluttered in the hot breeze.

"It is so terrible that the games have fallen out of favor on Romulus," Vrixia complained in a high-pitched simper as a female attendant handed her another glass of wine. A male slave fanned her with a large, white feather that caused her long black hair to flutter. "Bloodsport is so wonderfully entertaining."

"As long as the blood isn't green, My Love," Seranius said to her over his shoulder. He wore his dress robes. They were bright white and trimmed with the Imperial colors of silver, blue, and green.

"My Darling Vrixia," Selonia said rolling over on her side. "Worry not. Much will change on Romulus now that my voice will finally be heard. Soon, the Forum Magnus in Ki Baratan will once again ring with the agonizing screams of our inferiors."

"I envy you so, Selonia," Vrixia said taking a sip of wine. "You are truly the noblest of Romulan women: strong, beautiful, cunning. You embody all that makes our people the masters of the galaxy."

"Flattery will not work on me, Vrixia," Selonia replied with a grin. "However, you can keep trying."

A Romulan male dressed in flowing gold and silver entered the box and bowed to the three patricians.

"Ladies, My Lord," he said bowing his head. "It is time for the primus."

Selonia leaped forward and clapped her hands together.

"Finally!" she said almost out of breath with excitement.

"Will you do the honors, Pirrus?" Seranius said gesturing towards the edge of the balcony.

"Of course, My Lord," he said stepping towards the marble railing and activating the stadium's loudspeakers.

"Romulans of Dacen!" Pirrus' voice echoed through the circular amphitheater, "Your Imperial Governor, Seranius, once again bids you welcome!"

The crowd of several thousand Romulan citizens roared in appreciation. They raised their hands in the air and began to chant Seranius' name in unison. Seranius stepped forward, waved his arms, and then took his seat once more.

"Now, Human!" the Romulan guard said taking his place behind Tigranian. He escorted the captain up the ramp towards the "Gate of the Damned." Tigranian could hear the voice of a Romulan male speaking above. He looked out the gate's slatted openings and saw a large black tube being wheeled into the opposite end of the arena.

"Governor Seranius now offers for your enjoyment, his primus, the main event!"

The crowd roared to life again as the "Gate of the Damned" opened ten meters beneath him.

Pirrus looked over his shoulder and muted the microphone.

"I am sorry, My Lord. What is this new fighter called?" Seranius looked back to Selonia.

"I hadn't really thought of a new name for him," Selonia said raising her eyebrows. Then, she recalled that idiot promagistrate and his constant berating of Tigranian. Selonia seemed to recall that Kival kept referring to Tigranian as a "blunt instrument" and that served as a constant source of irritation to her new slave.

"Call him, 'The Hammer of Terra," Selonia replied with a grin. Pirrus nodded and turned back towards the crowd.

"From the far reaches of the barbaric galaxy, a new gladiator emerges to fight and win for your enjoyment! From Earth, the very capital of the Federation, I give you the human phenomenon, the slayer from Sol, The Hammer of Terra!"

The Romulan guard pushed Tigranian out into the arena. He walked towards the center of the sands, still stained crimson from the day's carnage. Tigranian looked up to meet the eyes of two thousand angry Romulans all staring down at him and booing his heritage. He turned around and realized he was standing directly in front of the Imperial Banner. The Romulan announcer and Seranius stared down at him. He gripped his short sword tighter as he guessed Selonia was up there as well.

"Now, standing in opposition is a true hero of this arena! A titan of sword, spear, and teral'n! Plucked from the angry seas of Aquinos VI, I give you, MARMALLUS!"

The roar of the crowd became deafening as the black tube tipped over, spilling water all over the sand of the arena floor. A massive form jumped from the tank, rolled forward, and stood to his feet, roaring loudly.

Tigranian immediately took stock of his opponent. This creature was humanoid, but stood over two meters tall. His muscular, bluish-green skin glistened in the sun and a pair of gills opened and closed along the sides of his chest. Four tentacles covered with suction cups danged from the sides of his open mouth and several rows of pointed teeth growled in Tigranian's direction from the alien's hairless head. An attendant ran over and handed Marmullus a long, curved sword with a serrated edge that mimicked his teeth.

"Gladiators! Salute your masters and come out fighting! Earn immortality today with your blood!" Pirrus said before stepping aside.

Marmullus raised his blade in the air, bowed to the pulvinus, and shouted:

"Jolan Tru! Glory to the Senate and People of Romulus!"

Tigranian remained silent.

Above him, Vrixia leaned over to Selonia.

"Marmullus is a champion. Do you think it wise for this to be your human's first match?"

"I believe we will see something spectacular today," Selonia said still grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear.

"Gladiators! Fight!" Pirrus commanded.

Marmullus raised his sword. He paced sideways, sizing up his opponent and preparing his attack. Tigranian stared back at him, his short sword still resting at his side.

Suddenly, Tigranian flung his weapon away from him and sat cross-legged in the dirt. The crowd roared in disapproval. Marmallus lowered his sword, wondering if this was some kind of trick. His black eyes stared up at the pulvinus as Selonia leaped off her couch and ran to the edge of the balcony, her eyes full of rage.

"Get up! Get up and fight!" she screamed over the din of the crowd.

Tigranian, however, only wanted this nightmare to end. He was a prisoner, a slave of his enemies. Sto'Vo'Kor was lost to him. If his family knew he was alive, his disgrace would be shared by them. He would never see Laria, Torlek, or his crew again, in this life or the next. No, it was his fate to sail on the Barge of the Dead and have Kortar row him towards Feklar's demons awaiting in Gre'thor. He might as well give the boatman his new passenger now rather than keep him waiting. Tigranian shut his eyes and awaited his end.

The boos and jeers of the onlookers became too much for Marmullus. He was not used to fighting under such pitiable conditions. He raised his sword and charged, hoping this fight would end and he could earn the masses favor again.

As he began to swing his blade towards Tigranian's neck, the captain took his last breath. Then, as the air singed with approach of Marmullus' sword, Laria's disembodied voice suddenly echoed in Tigranian's ears.

"Daniel, not yet."

A split-second before Marmullus separated Tigranian's head from his body, Daniel dropped forward and the aquatic killer's sword sailed clean over his body. The crowd gasped in amazement. Marmullus swung again. This time, it was Torlek's voice who spoke to Daniel.

"Keep fighting."

As the Aquinosian tried to end his opponent once more, Tigranian ducked his long reach, raised his hands, and caught Marmullus' wrists. Tigranian leaped up onto his heels, and kicked Marmullus' with all his might in the gills. The Aquinosian gasped and fell to his knees as Tigranian rolled away. The crowd roared triumphantly as the human grabbed his sword from the ground and raised it into a guard.

"You see!" Selonia said beckoning for her wine glass from a waiting slave. "I told you we would see something spectacular!"

Marmullus was dazed, his breath still knocked out of him as Tigranian charged forward, slashing with his weapon. Marmullus could barely deflect Tigranian's blows. For the first time, a smaller opponent was able to get inside his massive reach, and the Aquinosian had no defense against it. Finally, Tigranian's sword caught in one of the serrations on Marmullus' blade. This paused the onslaught long enough for Marmullus to strike Tigranian in the chest with his free hand, sending him backwards almost three meters. The Aquinosian climbed to his shaky legs, roared again, and fought back.

"I was going to kill you quickly, human!" Marmullus growled through his waving mouth tentacles. "Now, you will suffer!"

The giant charged forward again, but Tigranian rolled forward over his shoulder, ducking his opponent's strike. The captain lashed out with his short sword, and sliced clean through the Aquinosian's leg, severing it just below the knee. Marmullus dropped his sword, roared in pain, and collapsed to the sand.

Tigranian stood up, grabbed his opponent's weapon, and held both blades aloft over his Marmullus' face. The Aquinosian's black eyes grew wide in terror and the tentacles around his mouth quivered. The crowed began to chant in a single massive roar. "KILL! KILL! KILL!"

Marmullus' breath quickened as he began to shake in shock.

Tigranian still held the weapons at the ready as he looked up towards the pulvinus. Seranius smiled as he gestured to Selonia. She laughed as she raised her arm and ran her thumb across her throat. The crowd went wild in anticipation.

Tigranian looked back down at Marmullus, still pleading for his life with his wide eyes. Tigranian looked down and saw his opponent wouldn't survive much longer with blood gushing from his leg.

Suddenly, Tigranian threw Marmullus' serrated sword aside, leaned over, and cut the Aquinosian's leather belt free from his waist. The captain knelt down, and fastened it tightly as a tourniquet around the alien's leg.

Tigranian stood up.

"You are not my enemy, and your life is not mine to take."

Marmullus' nodded in silent gratitude.

The crowd suddenly went completely silent.

"Slave!" Seranius shouted down from the pulvinus. "Kill him now!"

Tigranian reared back his head and laughed. He began to yell loud enough for the entire arena to his words.

"The mupwI' who hides behinds guards and bathes in perfume still thinks he controls me!" Tigranian gripped his sword at stared Seranius and Selonia. "I AM NO ONE'S SLAVE!" Then Tigranian turned to the crowd. "But you are!" Tigranian said looking at the common Romulans in the stands. "They hold these games to keep you docile and placated while they sit in their villas, live off your labor, and plot your destruction. Do nothing and your entire race will perish in the flames of its own ignorance and arrogance. Romulus can be free, but not while they live!"

Tigranian reared back and heaved his sword end over end towards the pulvinus. It landed squarely in the middle of the Imperial banner, impaling the Raptor through the heart. He then walked back towards the "Gate of the Damned." When the Romulan guard pulled out a disruptor to stop him, Tigranian simply batted it away.

"Live free, Romulan," he said walking past him. He confidently strode down the ramp back into the catacombs and passed the other gladiators who had assembled below to hear his words. The same gladiator who spoke to him before reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Perhaps the gods will hear you after all," the gladiator said, the look in eyes replaced with hope for the first time. Tigranian said nothing and continued walking. The gladiator raised his fist in the air and began chanting. "Terran! Terran! Terran!"

The other slaves quickly joined in.

In the pulvinus above, Selonia listened to the terror and rage building in the crowd. She gritted her teeth and shook with anger as her wine glass shattered in her hand.

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